Charles Leroy Riley (1931-2021): An ‘uncompromising warrior’
A “hero” to the labour movement and the Progressive Labour Party was celebrated in the House of Assembly on Friday.
David Burt, the Premier, called Charles Leroy Riley an “uncompromising warrior” for both causes, frequently calling radio shows to give his views.
Many listeners to talk radio came to know him simply as the Hotel Man.
“He was fearless and unwavering in his support at all times,” Mr Burt said.
Mr Riley’s efforts as a young hotel worker to unionise staff at the Elbow Beach Hotel got him fired, PLP MP Derrick Burgess said.
He called him a union and PLP stalwart as well as “a freedom fighter for the people of this country”.
Mr Burgess told The Royal Gazette that Mr Riley was “upfront and straight up on his allegiance, but very cordial to people, regardless of your political affiliations”.
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, told the House that Mr Riley had stood out as a hero to labour and to the PLP.
“He was a hero of mine,” Mr Roban added, commending his “great courage, great eloquence and great knowledge”.
Mr Riley became a mentor to many and was “extremely kind, offering his counsel to me and to other young people”.
He was also devoted to the Hamilton Parish community, Mr Roban added.
Mr Riley spent 60 years in the hotel industry, starting at Cambridge Beaches, followed by the Belmont Hotel, where he became a waiter.
He joined Elbow Beach as cocktail waiter, and moved on to the old Castle Harbour Hotel as a waiter and bartender. Other positions included the Southampton Princess Hotel in the 1980s.
Mr Riley was formally certified as a sommelier wine steward, a specialist wine professional.
His skills once brought him to the Supreme Court as an expert witness to give evidence over a dispute over a local liquor company’s right to sell a product marketed as champagne.
Mr Burt gave condolences to Mr Riley’s children: Deborah Riley-Tuzo, Charles Riley and the late David and Lerona Riley.
⋅ Charles Leroy Riley, a lifelong hotel worker and Bermuda Industrial Union stalwart, was born on April 2, 1931. He died in July 2021, aged 90.